The South Asia Channel

Daily brief: Obama administration Afghan war review due out tomorrow

Event notice/Wonk Watch: Join the New America Foundation tomorrow at 9:30am EST for the release of the Combating Terrorism Center at West Point’s new report, Self-Inflicted Wounds: Debates and Divisions within al-Qa’ida and its Periphery. Details and RSVP here. No surprises here The Obama administration’s one-year review of the Afghan war strategy, which White House ...

NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP/Getty Images
NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP/Getty Images

Event notice/Wonk Watch: Join the New America Foundation tomorrow at 9:30am EST for the release of the Combating Terrorism Center at West Point’s new report, Self-Inflicted Wounds: Debates and Divisions within al-Qa’ida and its Periphery. Details and RSVP here.

No surprises here

The Obama administration’s one-year review of the Afghan war strategy, which White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said will "not surprise" anyone following the issue, is due out tomorrow, and Barack Obama met with his national security team for two hours yesterday to give the final approval (Post, FT, Tel). The report is said to note that although progress has been made in some areas of Afghanistan and the transition to Afghan security control "can and should begin" in July 2011, the Karzai government receives low marks for efficiency and corruption (Post).

Additionally, many American civilian and military officials are reportedly increasingly convinced that the U.S. needs to take "more forceful action" in Baluchistan, directly across the border from Kandahar, because of concerns about militant sanctuaries in Pakistan (Post). The former senior diplomat in Kandahar, Bill Harris, commented, "We knew the insurgents who attacked us were going to Pakistan to re-equip, replenish, retrain and get orders to attack us again." Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs, who headed to Pakistan on his 21st trip there as chairman to meet with Pakistan’s Army chief Gen. Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, said yesterday that he carried a sense of "strategic impatience" with the Pakistani government over its failure to prevent insurgents from attacking coalition forces in Afghanistan (NYT, AP, ET).

The NYT and LAT add to reporting about two grim new National Intelligence Estimates on Afghanistan and Pakistan, representing the consensus views of the U.S.’s 16 intelligence agencies, which military officials reportedly claim were "written by desk-bound Washington analysts who have spent limited time, if any, in Afghanistan and have no feel for the war" (NYT, LAT). The NYT reports that the dispute reflects two things: debate in Washington over whether the U.S. can succeed in Afghanistan without more Pakistani cooperation, and "longstanding cultural differences between intelligence analysts, whose job is to warn of potential bad news, and military commanders, who are trained to promote "can do" optimism."

The Post clarifies its story mentioning Amb. Richard Holbrooke’s last words, which were originally reported to be, "You’ve got to stop this war in Afghanistan," writing that a State Department spokesman has cast the remarks as "humorous repartee" and an aide emphasized that the comment was "made in painful banter, rather than as a serious exhortation about policy" (Post). Several outlets observe the difficulty of replacing the ambassador, noting that the acting representative, Frank Ruggiero, is "unlikely to be a permanent successor" and discussions about who will eventually fill the post on a permanent basis have not yet begun (NYT, AP, Guardian, WSJ). Remembering Richard Holbrooke (FP).

A shaky government

The Islamist political party JUI-F’s withdrawal from Pakistan’s ruling coalition over Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani’s dismissals of two ministers yesterday will weaken the civilian government, but not deprive it of a majority in Pakistan’s parliament (AFP, Dawn, ET, ET, The News, The News). JUI-F chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman is meeting with leaders from Jamaat-e-Islami and the PML-Q (The News). And the MQM, the second largest partner in the current coalition, is also reportedly holding crisis talks to "discuss the current political situation and the ruling Pakistan People Party’s (PPP) behavior towards its allies," in the wake of a verbal outburst against the MQM by Sindh’s home minister, Zulfiqar Mirza (AFP/Dawn, ET, ET, Daily Times).

Police in Karachi have reportedly arrested a Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan militant from Orakzai agency who allegedly planned to attack the Ashura religious procession (AFP). Three women were injured yesterday when a remote controlled bomb detonated near a police vehicle on the outskirts of Peshawar, and heavily armed militants reportedly attacked a security checkpoint on the Afghan border in Mohmand agency, killing two soldiers (ET). And the first phase of repatriation for families displaced by fighting in South Waziristan has been completed (Daily Times). Bonus read: trickling home to South Waziristan (FP).

Flashpoint

Indian police, concerned about potential separatist protests, have reportedly fired tear gas and used batons to disperse hundreds of Muslims marching to observe the Shia holy month of Muharram in Srinagar, the summer capital of Indian-administered Kashmir (AP, HT, PTI). Security is said to be high across the valley, particularly in Shia areas.

New Year’s in Kabul?

An Afghan official said earlier today that in spite of daily violence in Afghanistan, the tourism industry is up from last year, with around 12,000 visitors going to see the sites in Kabul, Bamyan, Parwan, and other provinces (Pajhwok). Most of the tourists were from the U.S., Canada, Germany, France, Italy, and Norway. Bonus click: Afghanistan 2010 — a year in photos (FP).

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